Jack Clift breaks ground on new Clift Farm project
MADISON — Dozens gathered at the Clift Farm property under a sunny sky this morning to witness the groundbreaking of the new Clift Farm community project.
The project, first established in 2017, is a collaboration between Breland Companies and the Clift family, one of Madison’s oldest and most prominent families, to turn the existing 550-acre Clift Farm into a mixed-use development. The project, which will be a “balance between community and preservation,” will allow its residents to “live, work, exercise, play and reflect.”
To celebrate, the event offered free caps bearing the name and logo of Clift Farm. Among the event’s attendees were Madison Mayor Paul Finley and United States Congressman Mo Brooks (AL05).
A video showcasing plans for the new Clift Farm project also touched on the legacy of the Clift family.
“Today, this land will now become a community for other generations to bring their own families and learn the values Jack and Lillian are passing on through this beautiful place,” the video explained.
The property will include homes, shops and cafes, as well as spacious greenways, pristine lakes, walking trails and wildflowers “that Lillian love[d] so much.”
Jack Clift, who will turn 100 this December, has been working with Breland Companies Owner Louis Breland to develop a tangible plan that will bring his vision to life. Jack’s wife Lillian passed away in 2015.
Since the partnership began, Breland said he has ridden through Clift Farm with Jack “countless times,” usually at least once a week, to better understand its history and Jack’s vision for its future. Breland also recalled Jack’s impeccable memory, noting how well he remembers the specific names, dates and details involved in the countless stories he shares.
“[Jack] has a vision, and he has shared that vision with me many, many times of how he wants this property to become one day,” Breland said. “Not only is he a consultant, but he has become a great mentor and an incredible friend. … I’ve always told Mr. Clift I might have bought this property from him and his family, but it’s always going to be his farm. It doesn’t matter—it’s always going to be his farm.”
Breland said the development will bring “great opportunity for all of Madison County.” He also explained that the property will remain true to its roots in the hands of the Clift family. Lakes and trails will bear Clift family names to honor members of the family and help tell their stories. The clubhouse, Breland explained, will have a “museum-type room” dedicated to the history of the property and generations of the Clift family.
Chairman Dale Strong of the Madison County Commission was also in attendance and shared a few words honoring the Clift family.
“When I look back at the history of Madison County and the city of Madison, I can think of no other family that deserves our thanks and admiration more than the Clift family,” Strong remarked. “The story of the Clift Farm really mirrors that of Madison County. It’s a story about good, solid family values, the importance of a community, being a good steward and looking at the long term. These generations of Clifts worked this land and grew this farm as Madison County grew. The two stories became intertwined, and today a new step is taken to break ground on a new community called Clift Farm that will allow new families to call this place home and raise future generations to respect this land and share in its beauty.”
The Clift family, as Strong shared, has been a part of Madison for six generations. John Henry Clift, Jack’s great-grandfather, purchased the first piece of land that would become Clift Farm in 1850. Subsequent generations added to the farm, with Jack purchasing his aunt’s share.
“Jack was always respectful of his elders, but he understood that technology and new ideas could help protect the land and improve their yield,” Strong said. “He was one of the first farmers in our area to develop and implement a soil conservation plan for this land, which was revolutionary at that time.”
Both Strong and Breland expressed a sense of joy that future families of Madison will have the opportunity to build their own memories at Clift Farm, a community that will strive to use the sustainable principles of a “timeless southern town where neighbors know each other, walk to restaurants and shops together and will learn to love this land as Jack and Lillian love it.” Breland said he is “very honored” to have been chosen to help create the Clift Farm community.
With the help of Strong and permission from the Clift family, the road running from the traffic light in front of Target, through the property and out to Wall Triana Highway will henceforth be named Jack Clift Boulevard. Breland presented the street sign at the ceremony.
“When you talk to Mr. Clift, you immediately understand how much this land means to him and the lifetime of memories he and Miss Lillian made while farming and caring for this land over the last 70 years,” Breland said. “Mr. Clift and Miss Lillian shared a love of nature, service to the community and the importance of hard work and family. These are the values that all of us can appreciate.”
Following Breland’s remarks, Jack—described as a devoted supporter of the John Deere brand—was helped into a John Deere tractor to officially break ground on the new Clift Farm community project as attendees applauded.
Breland has developed properties across Alabama, Mississippi and north Florida for the past 40 years. He is also spearheading the development of Town Madison, a 530-acre project along Interstate 565 in Madison that will include the new minor league baseball stadium.